As many of you know, I’ve been home with my kids since they were born and in my first book wrote a lot about how to make this happen in today’s day and age. At the end of the day, for married couples it comes down to deciding how you’re willing to live. To that end, below is an article by Jackie Edwards, who has some great tips for those who are wondering how to make it work. (For additional information, check out my book, The Two-Income Trap: Why Parents Are Choosing to Stay Home.)
An increasing number of families in America are choosing to live on a single income. According to recent data, more and more mothers are making the choice to stay at home and care for their children, while the number of stay-at-home dads rose to 2 million in 2012. There are various reasons why some parents opt to stay at home; but in this economy, it can be difficult to make ends meet while raising one or more children. However, through careful planning, smart budgeting, and making good financial choices, you can certainly live well even on a single income. Here are a few ways to stretch your money and still have a good quality of life:
1. Stick to a budget
Sticking to a budget is often easier said than done, but doing so allows your family to live well even on a single income. If you follow a strict budget on groceries, utilities, transportation, and the like, then you’ll have some extra cash left for fun things such as funds for date night with your spouse or a celebratory pizza with the kids.
2. Sign up for assistance programs
There’s no shame in asking for help if you need it. If you feel that some expenses—such as healthcare—are beyond what you can afford, then see if your family qualifies for free or low-cost health care in your state. Keep in mind that your family needs to meet certain income guidelines to qualify for assistance.
3. Couples should have their own spending money
If you and your partner decide that one of you will stay home with the kids, it doesn’t have to mean that one won’t have access to any spending money. Talk it over with your spouse and decide how much spending money each of you should have each month. If you decide that each of you can have x amount every month, whoever’s working should put that amount aside every month, without fail. This way, there’s no resentment in the relationship, and both of you get a bit of spending money for personal things and incidentals.
4. Know where to shop
Knowing where to get the best bargains can help you and your family get access to the best items at the lowest prices. You can get good clothes and toys at thrift stores and yard sales, while you can get essentials such as diapers and toilet paper in bulk at membership stores. You can also find meat, vegetables, and other ingredients at your local grocery store, and it’s even cheaper if you use coupons whenever you shop.
5. Look for low-cost or free ways to entertain your family
Cable and Internet come with a hefty cost, but if you’re looking for some quality entertainment, try checking out your local park for free concerts and plays. You can also see if your community center is providing any opportunities for free entertainment. If you’re going to the park, make it extra special and take a picnic basket with some sandwiches, cookies, and beverages in it to feed your family.
Living on a single income doesn’t have to feel like it. By doing a bit of research, having a little creativity, and being on the same page with your spouse about your finances, it can be done.